Decision-makers are influenced by their constituency. If the public does not care that much about a problem, these leaders tend to ignore the significance of the issue. Conversely, if an overwhelming percentage of, say, voters, believe in something, then potential candidates take heed.
For example, most polls taken over the past few decades seem to indicate that around 90% of Americans believe in some afterlife and a God. It would thus behoove political candidates to be religious. The odds are, of course, that most of them actually believe themselves. At the national level, only Congressman Pete Stark is on record as not believing in God. However, he does not plan to run for office again. The fact of the matter is that something on the order of 90% or more of Americans would consider a black person or woman, but less than half would vote for an atheist.
As an interesting sidebar, only 5% of biological scientists in the National Academy of Sciences believe in the afterlife. Is there something this elite group knows that we don't? Well, no. There are certain things that might not ever be known, while there are some other things that should be scientifically provable. Let's take global warming as an example. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists believe that the global average temperatures have increased over the past 50 years, and 84% say that the cause is human-induced. Only 13% believe that there is relatively little danger to Planet Earth and us. Only 1% of them believe that the TV/cable media are very reliable and 3% rate local newspapers as very reliable. You can make your own conclusions on what these numbers mean.
We all know that polls can be skewed by how you ask the question and who you solicit. So take the following any way you wish, but most recent surveys show that the American public is split about the environment being given priority over the economy and vice versa. In 2000, 67% favored the environment. Today, this percentage has slipped to 49%.
Last year 56% thought that cars and industry at large are mostly to blame, but the fault dropped to 54% this year. Slightly more feel that government should fine or tax company emissions, but only 52% to 45%. We tend to be concerned about water and air pollution, but only 37% worry about global warming.
Yet, Al Gore and others like him might be having an effect, as in 1997 only 25% said that global warming would pose a threat to their way of life (with 69% saying no), and this year the apprehension shifted to 40% yes and 58% no. All in all, though, climate change is not a huge concern to our populace.
I might add that a World Public Opinion poll reported this year that 43% of Americans felt that carbon dioxide was a pressing problem, while the returns from the world showed: Australia at 69%, Argentina 63%, Israel 54%, China 42%, Russia 32% and India 19%. Interestingly enough, 71% of those in the United Kingdom believed that this was all a natural occurrence and not a result of this gas. The recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report by more than 2,500 scientists found a 90% chance that people were the main cause and drastic action was needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
How then is global warming related to the afterlife? No, nothing to do with afterlife being hell, although that might make for a entertaining movie. Simply, for both, logic seems almost irrelevant. We tend to believe what we want, heavily influenced by our upbringing. Science is not welcomed in religion, for can you imagine the fate of a political candidate who might foolishly state: the greatest immorality of religion is that there is no proof of an afterlife. It's particularly worrisome that science is failing to have much effect on public opinion. There is no simple solution, but I'm trying, with Chapter 3 on education and Chapter 5 on religion in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.